Paper Dissection Project

Overview: EDLI worked with partners to develop and implement alternatives for dissection that could be done online remotely.

Outcomes: The development of a paper model of the lamprey, which allowed the faculty member to provide a paper alternative to dissection for the entire progression of comparative anatomy study animals. This reduced the cost of the course and allowed for it to be offered completely remotely. Discussions of these alternative models in typical instruction led to alternative models of instruction for the course, which potentially could save the department money and allow for flexibility in pedagogical approaches.

Working with Dr. McElhinny the main challenge was, given a relatively short amount of time, how can you create an online learning experience that approximates the learning goals of a comparative anatomy laboratory:

  • understanding common vertebrate anatomical structures
  • describing similarity and difference in structures in multiple organisms
  • increasing facility in dissecting preserved specimens to reveal internal anatomy

Added challenges of this course’s context is that it was a large class of 150 students that typically is broken into smaller recitations of 25 and the inability to have specimens delivered to individual students because of cost and the health and environmental issues of disposal the cadavers. EDLI worked with Dr. McElhinny to develop a needed paper dissection model for the lamprey to complete the developmental sequence available from 3rd party vendors. In addition, EDLI began to assess how students perceived this type of alternative to physical dissection. Preliminary results indicate that there are some imbalances between the perceived amount of effort and reward for the paper modeling activities. Future use of this approach will need to address this imbalance.

Lamprey black & white dissection sheet
Lamprey instructions sheet
Lamprey student table of anatomical parts

Publications: Blog post on lamprey paper dissection

Author/Personnel: Stephen Thomas and Jun Fu
Partners: Dr. Terri McElhinny and IBIO 328 Comparative Anatomy

Stephen Thomas

Dr. Stephen Thomas is a faculty member and the Associate Director for the Center for Integrative Studies in General Science at Michigan State University and the Digital Curriculum Coordinator for the College of Natural Science. He provides expertise for the EDLI team in pedagogy, curricular reform, and visual thinking.